If you read Byte magazine in 1983, you might have expected that, by now, you’d be able to buy the red phone with the video screen built-in. You know, like the one that appears on the cover of the magazine. Of course, you can’t. But that didn’t stop former Hackaday luminary [Cameron] from duplicating the mythical device, if not precisely, then in spirit. Check it out in the video, below.
While the original Byte article was about VideoTex, [Cameron] built a device with even more capability you couldn’t have dreamed of in 1983. What’s more, the build was simple. He started with an old analog phone and a tiny Android phone. A 3D-printed faceplate lets the fake phone serve as a sort of dock for the cellular device.
That’s not all, though. Using the guts of a Bluetooth headset enables the fake phone’s handset. Now you can access the web — sort of a super Videotex system. You can even make video calls.
There isn’t a lot of detail about the build, but you probably don’t need it. This is more of an art project, and your analog phone, cell phone, and Bluetooth gizmo will probably be different anyway.
Everyone always wanted a video phone, and while we sort of have them now, it doesn’t quite seem the same as we imagined them. We wish [Cameron] would put an app on the phone to simulate a rotary dial and maybe even act as an answering machine.
In the time before smartphones for on-the-go visual entertainment, there were portable TVs. You might think of a portable TV as a luggable device, but the really cool ones were pocket-sized. Perhaps if you are familiar with pocket TVs you’ll be thinking of a Citizen or a Casio with a matchbox-sized LCD, but before those devices reached the market there was an earlier generation that featured tiny CRTs. These were simply the coolest electronics that an ’80s kid could lust after, and [Nick Reynolds] is lucky enough to have one. It’s a Sony Watchman from some time in the first half of that decade, and because it’s useless in the age of digital broadcasts he’s upgraded it by installing a Raspberry Pi in its case.
The unlikely inspiration for the project came from the 1970s British sci-fi TV series Space 1999, in which portable CRT-based communicators were a prop. They were typical of the sci-fi vision of the future in shows of the period, one that got so much right but didn’t quite see the smartphone coming.
The Watchman features Sony’s angled CRT, and fitting a Pi Zero W into the limited space behind it called for some careful insulation of its parts with Kapton tape. He’s even included a Pi camera module with a contorted run of flexible cable, placing it beneath the screen where a tuning indicator once sat. He has no sound as yet, but is able to demonstrate a working videophone using Ekiga as a client. He has a few more Watchmen, and has plans for a suite of retro videophones, and a Pi 3 based model.
Surprisingly this isn’t the only Sony Watchman that’s had this kind of treatment, previously we’ve brought you one that hosted a Pong game.
So IT has your computer locked down, but if you’re lucky enough to have this model of telephone you can still play video games while at work. [AUTUIN] was at the thrift store and for just $8 he picked up an ACN videophone on which he’s now playing video games. We don’t know what magical second-hand stores sell functioning electronics of this caliber but you should never pass up an opportunity like this.
It turns out the phone is running Linux natively. After some searching [AUTUIN] found that it is possible to telnet to a root shell on the device. Doing so he was able to figure out that the phone uses standard packages like ALSA for the Audio and /dev/input/event0 for the keypad. It even includes an SD card slot so he loaded one with a Debian image and used pivot_root to switch over to that OS. At this point the phone is his to command and of course he loaded up a video game which you can see in the clip after the break.